With the dawn of this decade, I fall in love with our neighborhood. Shortly after turning 40, my husband came home from the hospital after a month-long near death fight with Guillain-Barre. During this ordeal, our neighbors sweep our toddlers into their lives, bring food, shovel our walk, clean our house, and shower us with love.
Sept. 11, 2001
I walk my boys to the bus stop, as usual looking forward to chatting with the other five or six Moms who waited on the same corner. They’ve become my best friends through these years of conversations — five minutes, twice a day. Liz comes to the stop and said, “I just heard that a plane hit the World Trade Center in New York.” We all brush it off as an unfortunate accident. Kathleen, who had recently moved to Minneapolis from the East Coast, came running from her house. She looks ashen. “Two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center! Something is wrong.”
When the bus arrives, we nervously put them on and run back to our houses. I listen to the report on my way to work.
For the rest of that week, the skies are perfectly blue, the neighborhood is deathly silent with no airplanes overhead.
Oct. 25, 2002
I hear about the crash of Sen. Wellstone’s plane while cleaning up my kids’ toys in the basement and burst out crying.
Nov. 1, 2002
Homemade “Mondale for Senate” lawn signs appear all over Minneapolis. The paint on most of the signs streaks in the steady rain — as if they shed communal tears.
Jan. 17, 2003
The night is very cold but Lake Harriet radiates heat. Two hundred people encircle the lake with a candlelight vigil to protest mounting talks of war. The next day, antiwar protests erupt around the world.
Aug. 28, 2008
My son’s school orientation night is running late and I, along with the other parents, am nervously looking at my watch. I’m panicked about missing Barak Obama’s acceptance speech at the Denver DNC. I race across town listening to the preamble on the radio. I won’t make it home and I don’t want to miss his entrance. I see a crowd gathered — tumbled out into the parking lot at Famous Dave’s in Linden Hills. I park my car and run in just in time to see Michelle introduce her husband. Famous Dave’s is standing-room only; I scan the room and see many friends. We are enthralled as Obama speaks. I look next to me and see an African American woman quietly weeping.
A large group of friends and neighbors gather together at a holiday open house. Two more friends tell me that they have lost their jobs. As far as I can tell, every single block in the neighborhood has been hit by recession. My husband turns 50 this month and I know I’m lucky to mark the passage of time with him. As the poet Jane Kenyon says, it could have been otherwise.
Jocelyn Hale is executive director of
The Loft Literary Center.